Hair Testing: One Step Closer to Becoming a DOT Drug Testing Method

Hair Testing: One Step Closer to Becoming a DOT Drug Testing Method
Scott Mogensen
3 mins read

APRIL 12, 2018 – After a significant delay, there seems to be some progress towards hair testing becoming a DOT-approved drug testing method.

Last month, members of a federal drug testing advisory board had a closed-door meeting to review a draft of the proposed rule. If enacted into law, this rule would allow trucking companies to choose between urine and hair follicle testing for their DOT-mandated pre-employment drug tests. Currently, urine is the only federally approved drug testing method.

This would be considered a win for many large trucking companies, which have been pushing for hair follicle drug testing to be approved by the DOT for years. Many of these companies are already using hair testing as part of their pre-employment screening process because it provides them with a longer lookback period on a candidate’s history of drug use. While urine testing only detects drugs used in the past 2-5 days (on average), hair testing can go back a full 90 days.

For these companies, the move towards DOT-approved hair testing would create a cost savings for them as they’d only need to conduct one pre-employment drug test on each new driver. Currently, these companies must run a urine drug screen in addition to a hair test to fulfill DOT testing requirements.

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Why the Delay?

When we last discussed hair follicle drug testing on the Foley blog, we projected that it would become a federally-approved drug testing method by the end of 2016 – as that was the deadline given by Congress at the time. Delays have stemmed from questions surrounding a few issues  – including the impact of hair color on drug test results and decontamination of hair samples – both of which are being addressed by the advisory board now.

When that’s complete, the proposal must gain the approval of both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Office of Management and Budget. The proposal can then be published in the Federal Register and made available for public comment: the next big step towards becoming law.

In the meantime, six large trucking companies have filed for an exemption to begin using hair testing to fulfill their federal drug testing requirements now. These companies include J.B. Hunt, Schneider, Werner, Dupre Logistics, Knight and Maverick.

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